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What happened in the county jail has not been a jokePosted Friday, November 21, 2008, at 1:07 PM
The nation, even the world, now knows about Greene County, Indiana.
We are on the map, on the radar screen, even got a mention by comedian Jay Leno on the Tonight Show the other night.
Sex, inmates and the county jail have provided those around the globe with plenty of laughs at our expense.
I'm not feeling real good about that.
Media hounds have gobbled up this story faster than a freshly cooked Thanksgiving meal of turkey, dressing and all the homemade fixins'.
Greene County Sheriff Terry Pierce wondered outloud to me how many of those "other media" outside of Greene County would have been so willing to pick up this story and "air our dirty laundry" for the world to see if the inmates would have been able to move through the ceiling area -- unnoticed -- and actually escaped the jail facility to freedom?
As a journalist, I can tell you probably very few of them would have taken a second glance at the story as it moved across the news wires had this been a simple escape.
I can also tell you Sheriff Pierce's telephone would not have been ringing as much seeking comment about what had happened if the prisoners had been able to leave the jail, instead of satisfying their own sexual needs behind the walls of his jail.
The sheriff admitted the storm of media coverage has actually caught him somewhat by surprise
"It's such a shame that this has drawn so much media attention. I think it's says something about the society and the world we live in," he said.
It's no secret that "sex sells" among many commodities that are marketed around the world -- including the media.
Sure, I agree it's not every day that six locked-up inmates -- three females and three males -- with plenty of time and idle minds as their prime allies figure out how to move from their own cellblock to another by crawling through the ceiling for a series of hormone-driven after-midnight romps on jailhouse bunks.
It took plenty of planning and hours of actual work by both the female and male inmates to be able to move a couple of bolted down steel ceiling tiles with make-shift tools fashioned out of things like the jail's shower drain cover to provide the passageway for their "moments of fun."
This happened in an area where wire mesh was placed in the passageway and the heavy metal tiles were welded shut.
The sheriff candidly told me that inmates do have a knack for finding the slightest of flaws in any kind of jail facility.
It's just the nature of the beast.
I agree there is plenty of blame to go around about how such an escapade could have even happened in the first place.
I trust that Sheriff Pierce has conferred with any personnel who have may have contributed even in the slightest way to what happened.
Were construction corners cut when the jail was first built in order to save money?
I know the answer is yes.
That's the reason the wall between the male cellblock and the female cellblock does not go all the way up to the top of the building. The jail was built amidst some fiscal controversy and to save a few bucks a decision was made to cut corners on the purchase of concrete blocks.
"We knew from the beginning there were flaws," Pierce told me.
It's also a consensus of those who have worked at and who are familiar with the Greene County lockup that this is not the first time that inmates have been able to breach security precautions.
Did they co-mingle in conjugal fashion out of the eyesight of jail officers and security cameras?
There have also been a prisoner or two who have managed to find their way to the outside world for a short period of time since the jail was constructed in 1994.
You've got to admire Sheriff Pierce for his candor and the way he has handled this mess.
The right thing politically would have been for Pierce to handle this internally and never let the outside world know much about this obviously very embarrassing situation.
That's not Pierce's style.
He was a man of integrity and character and more good cop than politician before he was elected sheriff and we can see those character traits have not been abandoned.
He made the situation very public by actually filing escape charges -- class C felonies -- against all six inmates involved in the incidents.
To the sheriff, there is no doubt that criminal charges are warranted and county prosecutor Jarrod Holtsclaw agrees.
"I'll take the butt-kicking and move on," he declared.
The sheriff has already contacted technical experts to assist in installing more and better security cameras and motion detectors in areas of the jail that human eyes can't see. Now he has to find the money to get the job done.
He's been open, honest and answered the tough questions without hesitation and free of a lot rhetorical polish.
The buck has stopped with him.
Pierce believes he did the right thing.
We agree and can tell you what happened at the Greene County Jail has not been a joke.
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